On personality and style
Some of the best writing advice I ever received was from Kevin Killian. It was 2012. A friend and I were traveling in a car from California to New York, and we stopped in San Francisco for a few nights. A friend in Australia, Michael, put me in touch with Kevin via email. I went to meet him one morning at a large office building downtown where he worked as a front desk receptionist. His desk was covered in newspaper and magazine clippings of Kylie Minogue. He told me that it was possible that he was the biggest Kylie fan outside of Australia; he had even written a book of poems about her. I told him that my friend’s dad—the one I was traveling with—was Kylie's doctor. Kevin was impressed and suggested we go to a nearby diner for a cherry Danish and coffee. A few weeks later I sent Kevin some of my poetry, which he graciously read and promptly responded to. He told me that my poems reminded him of me, which, while pleasant given that he enjoyed our time together, wasn't necessarily a good thing for the poems. "What I'm trying to say, a secret that took me years to work out, is that there is a difference between a personality and a personal style. The former is the thing that most of us try hard to develop from childhood to be able to live in the world," he wrote. "The latter is the process we develop to eliminate this worldly "personality", so that we should be able to be writers."
Much of the reading I’ve been doing lately has been vaguely about pretense, performance, style. It is expertly done in Marlowe Granados debut novel, Happy Hour—I highly recommend. Also, this profile of Jeremy Strong, the actor who plays Kendall Roy in Succession. I am reading Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge for the first time. And Stendahl's gossipy memoir, The Life of Henry Brulard. This will be my last newsletter for the year. Next year I'm hoping to get started on a book project, so I think future Paragraphs will look more like this one: very short, a few reading recommendations, and then updates about recently published work by me. On that note, today a long feature I've been working on for almost a year was published at WIRED. It is about a mother who is currently in prison for murdering all four of her children. But a recent genetic discovery has raised the prospect that she may be innocent. Hell is empty and all the devils are here. Happy holidays.